BRACING YOURSELF Some men wonder whether suspenders should be worn inside or outside their trousers


Q. Where do the suspender buttons go on pants -- on the outside or inside? Also, I'm not sure whether to keep the belt loops on or have them removed?

A. In my opinion it looks better to prepare your trousers for one or the other. Either remove the belt loops and use braces (suspenders), or use the loops for a belt.

Some men wear their braces buttoned on the outside of the trousers, but they look best with the buttons sewn inside the waistband, where they do not show. (Buttons that show seem indiscreet, like exposing one's underwear.) This is even more true for the many men who like to keep the belt loops on their trousers (giving themselves an option). The obvious combination of braces' buttons and belt loops suggests all kinds of fussy psychological compulsions (like Felix of "The Odd Couple"): the type of man who not only has belt loops and buttons, but who wears both belt and braces at the same time.

Incidentally, when you are buying new trousers, be sure to tell the tailor you plan to wear them with braces, so he can adjust the length accordingly. In some better shops, the tailor has a pair of clip-ons (the only time I advocate using such an unsophisticated device!) that he attaches temporarily to the trousers to ensure an exact measurement.

Some men who wear braces have one more reason for retaining belt loops. They are "American dress snobs" -- the type of Ivy League, Brooks Brothers dressers who favor "Eastern Establishment" or British styles. They would not be caught dead in anything that smacks of European-inspired continental styling or, worse, no-belt, golf-type trousers.

Q: What is the proper length to wear a tie?

I was taught that the tie should end at the top of the belt buckle. I know that it is too short when showing 2-3 inches of (usually ample) girth between the end of the tie and the belt.

Lately I've been seeing well-dressed men with the tie extending beyond this point, for some almost becoming a loincloth. I have begun wearing my tie longer, creating two problems: A) with many ties, wearing them longer means that the back is too short to fit into the loop, and B) the friction between my belt, tie, and jacket tends to push the tie to one side, ruining the appearance. What's your advice?

A: You were taught correctly. The tip of the tie should reach the belt. Today many well-dressed men do wear their ties a shade longer, but below the buckle is too low.

If the back portion of the tie does not on occasion extend long enough to be tucked through the loop (on the back of the tie), then the back is too short. You should begin again and retie your necktie. If it never does, then you should be buying a longer tie. Any man over 6-feet-2 normally needs an "extra long" tie. Many department stores stock them. Of course, tall men's stores everywhere carry a large selection.

Standard ties are manufactured in lengths ranging from 54 to 57 inches. (Consistency in lengths does not seem to be a high priority in the necktie industry.) For tall men, those three inches can make a difference. You might try this method: When shopping for a tie, narrow your selections down to several best bets, lay them out on the counter, and choose which ones are the longest.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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